|Alicyn receives a hug from
her mom on Mary’s last birthday in May 2009. |
(Photo courtesy of Ron Syme)
Five years ago today I received an email from a friend, Mary Schindler. It contained Mary’s recipe for Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake with a little note remarking on the previous day’s event — the Big Tomato Contest, an annual rivalry at that time between Pastoral Center and Catholic Charities employees.
The tomato challenge, which occurred for six or seven years, was initiated by Mary, the supervisor for the financial counseling department for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud, and Steve Gessell, the maintenance worker for properties of the St. Cloud Diocese. That particular year our building defended the title with the largest red “fruit” and so Catholic Charities employees returned some weeks later singing the required “You are the champions” tune and the fabulous cheesecake Mary had baked as an offering to the “tough competition.”
I remember the fun and laughter we all shared that day and Mary’s scrumptious cheesecake. I treasure the recipe she shared with me, which included a number of tips telling exactly how she prepared it. And most of all, I count myself blessed to have known Mary — her spirit was large and bright, vivacious and magnetizing — full of love for those around her.
She passed away from cancer, at the age of 52, on Aug. 23, 2009, a week short of celebrating 25 years of marriage with her loving husband, Ron Syme. The couple’s three children — Symon (25), Nate (20) and Alicyn (16) — were a huge part of Mary’s life.
It’s been heart warming to talk with Ron and a few of her former coworkers these last few days. Memories of times with Mary are truly cherished by those who knew her.
“She had a zest for life and never took anything for granted,” recalls Jenny McDermond, Catholic Charities financial and housing counselor who began working with Mary in 2001. “She put her heart into everything she did — cooking, trying new recipes, making kimchee, reading, her work, her family, her friends, the Spanish language — everything.
“One of my fondest memories is traveling to South Korea in 2006 with Mary, her family, their exchange student Jun Soo Lee and my sister Becky,” she continued. “She encouraged me to learn about my heritage and to be proud of being a Korean-American by introducing me to Kamp Kimchee (a family camp for Korean-adoptees) and through weekly meetings at her house to learn Korean from Jun Soo Lee.
“She would bring people together and the events were always inclusive,” said Sue Kilian, Catholic Charities financial and housing counselor who worked with Mary for 21 years. “I remember game nights that she would organize for coworkers and former coworkers which were always open to everyone including any guests people wanted to bring. We would play games, eat food and laugh a lot.
“She was just a lot of fun,” Sue continued. “If she was excited about something she wanted everyone to be excited about whatever it was — her enthusiasm was absolutely infectious.”
“Mary was the kindest person I’ve ever met. She made everybody feel comfortable all the time,” remembers her long time friend Sherri Magnuson, secretary/receptionist at Catholic Charities. “And, once she was your friend, she was your friend forever.”
A note from Carol: Mary worked in the financial counseling department for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud for over 25 years.
Please visit FFF again tomorrow to see her cheesecake recipe.
The Schindler-Syme family in 2006 — Ron (front, left) and Alicyn, Nate,
Jun Soo Lee, Mary and Symon. (Photo courtesy of Ron Syme)